Friday, August 29, 2014

Barry Commoner

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 22, 2014

Barry Commoner was an American born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, USA on May 28, 1917.  His parents were Russian migrants.  He was a Biologist educated in Columbia University and Harvard University.  Married and divorced Gloria Gordon with whom he had 2 children; then married Lisa Feiner.  Commoner just recently died on September 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York.  He served as a lieutenant in the US Navy during World War II.

In 1953, Barry Commoner became a Newcomb Cleveland Prize awardee for the many works and studies he made in the field of biology and environmental sciences.  In 1970, he received the “International Humanist Award” after authoring several books about the negative effects to the ecology of atmospheric nuclear testing.  Aside from writing, another interest of Commoner was publications as he served as editor of the Science Illustrated magazine.  He also published a newsletter called “Nuclear Information” which later became the “Environment” magazine.  Commoner was a professor for 34 years of plant physiology at the Washington University and founded the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems --- an entity dedicated to the study of the science of the total environment. 

Barry Commoner’s public life began to unravel when he presented his strong opposition to nuclear weapons testing.  Later, he ran for president of the United States in the 1980 presidential elections under the Citizen’s Party but lost.  His political life pales in comparison to his life as a biologist, educator, writer and environmentalist.  Commoner is credited and most remembered for postulating the Four Laws of Ecology:
  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nature knows best.
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

These Laws of Ecology highlighted the following facts: (a) That there is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all; (b) That there is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown; (c) That mankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is likely to be detrimental to that system; and, (d) That exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

At present, these Laws of Ecology by Barry Commoner remain largely relevant and still has profound influence in the thought processes of people… especially pro-environment students, practitioners and advocates-activists.  These laws are still held as noble tenets to ecological and environmental protection.  Thanks to a commoner with an uncommonly great mind in Barry Commoner.

Just my little thoughts…

(Please visit, like and share Pro EARTH Crusaders and Landscape Ecology UPOU on Facebook or follow me at

1 comment:

  1. Hi sir, Its my first time here and still grappling, hehe.

    My favorite law of ecology would be "There is no such thing as a free lunch." which my boss would say after taking us group for comapny lunch or dinner.

    Thanks and hasta luego.